Clients are often concerned that a beloved pet is cared for after their death and want to make provision in their Will to ensure that this happens.

This is not a new concern and there are numerous old cases dealing with the question of how an animal is to be looked after when their owner has died. This has presented a particular problem with animal that live a very long time such as tortoises or parrots.

An animal cannot inherit funds itself.  Wills can, however, be drafted to make provision for the care a of a pet, three possible ways to do this are: –

  1. To leave a gift of the pet to a specific person along with a cash legacy conditional on the person agreeing to look after the pet.   Thought would need to be given to how much is needed to maintain the animal and to an appropriate person who would be willing and able to care for it.  Care for some pets is more onerous than for others so careful thought would be required as to an appropriate carer and the amount of the cash legacy.  A degree of trust is needed that the person receiving the animal and the cash legacy will in fact look after your pet.  Such a legacy can also be drafted with default provisions so that if the first person named to look after the pet is unable or unwilling to do so another named person is appointed.
  2. An alternative is to leave a gift to an animal welfare charity along with a request that they arrange for your pet to be cared for.  Several charities offer schemes specifically designed to help which do not necessarily require you to leave them a legacy.  Examples include the RSPCA’s Home for Life Scheme, the Cats Protection league Cats Guardian service and Dogs Trust Canine Care Card.  This is an attractive option as it may give some more certainty although is perhaps less personal, as while the charities undertake to care for your pet you would have no way of knowing where or by whom it was cared for.
  3. Another option is a trust which could be created by your Will. English law does not generally allow the creation of a trust of which an animal is a beneficiary but an exception has developed whereby a trust can be created for the care of an animal so long as it continues for no more than 21 years (which would be counted from the date of death of the person making the Will) and has an ultimate beneficiary which could be either a person or persons or charity.  Given that such trusts are limited in time they are not appropriate for longer lived animals, but they do represent another option which could be appropriate in some circumstances.  Again, careful thought would need to be given as to how much cash would be required to look after a given animal and to who would act as the trustees. 

A properly drafted Will can make provision to ensure so far as possible that pets are cared for after their owner has died, if you would like to discuss making a Will please contact our Private Client team on or call 01753 279030.

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Dominic Ibbs
Principal Lawyer

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